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Knowledge transfer


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Transferring knowledge from one generation to another...
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers asked us to think about knowledge transfer. ASME has taken note that many member corporations are losing valuable knowledge and expertise as senior engineers and scientists retire. So we thought about this problem, did some research and produced the attached paper as food for thought. We'd like to share it with you here.

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Knowledge transfer

  1. 1. ASME Knowledge Transfer Initiative F o o d f o r T h o u g h t 350 SEVENTH AVENUE SUITE 404 NEW YORK, NY 10001 212 966 7800 STRATEGYSTUDIO.COM 350 SEVENTH AVENUE SUITE 404 NEW YORK, NY 10001 212 966 7800 STRATEGYSTUDIO.COM 350 SEVENTH AVENUE SUITE 404 NEW YORK, NY 10001 212 966 7800 STRATEGYSTUDIO.COM 350 SEVENTH AVENUE SUITE 404 NEW YORK, NY 10001 212 966 7800 STRATEGYSTUDIO.COM 350 SEVENTH AVENUE SUITE 404 NEW YORK, NY 10001 212 966 7800 STRATEGYSTUDIO.COM 350 SEVENTH AVENUE SUITE 404 NEW YORK, NY 10001 212 966 7800 STRATEGYSTUDIO.COM
  2. 2. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS 03 Introduction 05 Situation Overview 07 Food for Thought 09 Food for Thought: One – The Barriers to Knowledge Transfer 10 Food for Thought: Two – The Conditions for Success 11 Food for Thought: Three – A Multipronged Approach 16 Food for Thought: Four – A Knowledge Transfer Platform 17 Conclusion
  3. 3. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 3 INTRODUCTION ASME has asked Strategy Studio to think about knowledge transfer for the ASME engineering community. It is clear that knowledge transfer is a key business issue today. Major organizations employ knowledge strategists to help them address the problem of retaining institutional knowledge. Many companies are faced with this challenge—Westinghouse, Northrup Grumman, TVA, Boeing and Chevron to name a few. The aging workforce, early retirements and downsizing have all contributed to the issue of experienced, knowledgeable engineers leaving and taking their expertise and experience with them. These organizations have created strategies to address the knowledge issue—hiring back retirees, mentoring programs and on the job training programs, to name a few. The problem can be framed by a few questions—how do we harvest the knowledge and expertise of experienced engineers and share that information with the next generation? How do we inspire those experienced engineers to share their knowledge? And how do we make that knowledge accessible for the next generation of engineers? Strategy Studio has been considering ASME’s knowledge retention and transfer issues and we have created this document to present some of our initial thoughts. We don’t have all the answers, but we have identified four areas where further exploration may point to an effective knowledge transfer initiative. This document is intended to start the discussion. We hope that discussion will lead to further opportunities to partner with ASME to take the next step on the knowledge transfer journey.
  4. 4. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 4 “ If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. ”Sir Isaac Newton
  5. 5. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 5 What do you know? Why do I need or want to know it? How can it help me? What’s in it for me? Why should I tell you what I know? Engineering professionals are aging out of the workforce. Like many other organizations, ASME is trying to discover a way to capture meaningful engineering knowledge and expertise and to make it available for future engineers. This knowledge resource needs to be dynamic, scalable, accessible, flexible and meaningful. SITUATION OVERVIEW
  6. 6. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 6 Knowledge can only be volunteered; it can’t be mandated or conscripted. People always know more than they can tell, and tell more than they can write. People often seek knowledge only when they need it. 1 2 3 Research has identified three fundamental barriers to effective knowledge transfer. SITUATION OVERVIEW Start by considering what we know about behavior and knowledge sharing: • Don’t underestimate the power of human nature • Curiosity can’t be taught • Solving puzzles is fun for some—but not for all • Show-offs love to share • Collecting information is made easier with the right tools We’ve used these points to develop our initial thoughts to approaching the issue of knowledge transfer. Research taken from LEA: Preserve Enterprise Knowledge, 2010 With these barriers in mind, how do you create and maintain an effective knowledge transfer platform?
  7. 7. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 7 The Fable of the Stone Soup: The story is set in a small French village in the 18th century. Tired and hungry soldiers approach the villagers for food and a place to rest. The unknown soldiers frighten the villagers. The villagers hide their food and inform the soldiers that they do not have a place for them to sleep. The soldiers tell the villagers that they will make soup from three smooth stones. The villagers are excited by this idea and eagerly help the soldiers gather the pot, water, and stones to make the soup. When the soldiers hint that a few vegetables will make the soup even better, the excited villagers run home and return with many of the vegetables they had previously hidden. The soldiers and villagers happily enjoy a huge feast together, The villagers even volunteer to bring meat, bread, and cider to the feast. After spending the night, the villagers and soldiers say their good-byes. The end of the story finds the once frightened villagers thanking the soldiers for having introduced them to stone soup. A recipe that will be handed down and expanded upon through the generations. FOOD FOR THOUGHT The Stone Soup fable teaches us that a little inventiveness can motivate and engage reluctant participants to contribute to the benefit of all. It also demonstrates that the contribution, in this case a stone soup recipe, can be preserved and even enhanced as it gets passed on to future generations. It is these elements of the story that make it a good point of reference for our discussions around knowledge transfer. In this section we provide some food for thought as ASME ponders this complex challenge.
  8. 8. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 8 FOOD FOR THOUGHT We have done initial research and thinking on the fundamental issues surrounding knowledge transfer. We would like to offer some of our initial thinking in a sequential framework for moving forward. On the following pages you will find an outline of four areas we have identified as possible topics to explore further. These topics are intended to lead to further conversation, research and insights. Listed below are the four areas we would suggest more exploration: One: The Barriers to Knowledge Transfer Two: The Conditions for Success Three: A Multipronged Approach Four: A Knowledge Transfer Platform
  9. 9. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 9 FOOD FOR THOUGHT: ONE Exploring the Barriers to Knowledge Transfer Based on initial research, we have identified three questions that we believe will allow us to move beyond the current barriers to knowledge transfer. Together with ASME, we will conduct research with ASME members and companies confronting knowledge transfer issues. The purpose of that research is centered around the three questions found on the right of this page. We suggest focus groups and interviews with professionals to learn more about how knowledge and expertise is currently shared and accessed. We also suggest conducting research with engineering organizations that have developed knowledge sharing methodologies to understand what they’re doing and if it can be leveraged. The objective of the reserach is to provide the ASME / Strategy Studio working team with feedback to shape a strategy for moving the initative forward. Once a strategy is in place, we would collaborate with ASME to develop concepts and map the findings to the conditions for success. Strategy Studio® will explore and define: What compels one to volunteer their knowledge and expertise? What are the ways we can make contributing easy? How can we frame the knowledge for the greatest utility?
  10. 10. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 11 Identifying Conditions for Success We suggest developing a criteria model. Once developed, this model would be used to benchmark concepts, tools and tactics that might be considered for the initiative. We have identified the three potential elements integral for gathering and sharing knowledge and expertise. We have provided our example of such a model below. Relevance: The information gathered must fill a need for specific knowledge. Accessibility: Information must be easy to contribute as well as easy to share and use. Motivation: Develop an incentive to contribute, such as enjoyment, pride and/or convenience. Once these elements are identified, they will determine the nexus to build a knowledge transfer solution that allows users to easily contrib- ute, access and enhance information. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: TWO MOTIVATIONRELE VANCE ACCESS IBILITY R A M Nexus for Success
  11. 11. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 11 Applying a Multipronged Approach People absorb information in different ways. Some are comfortable exploring their intellectual curiosity on their own. Others prefer to learn from experts demonstrating new concepts and techniques. Some prefer to learn visually or through written materials. The same preferences hold true for those experts with the knowledge. How they prefer to share their knowledge varies widely. On one end of the spectrum are the people comfortable in the spotlight, on the other end of the spectrum are those who prefer to focus on their work with little interaction with others. Think about addressing these different styles from different per- spectives. As an example we suggest the following perspectives; Storytelling, Learning and Gaming. Each of these perspectives addresses the various ways of learning and knowledge sharing while aligning with our stated criteria model. On the following pages, we pro- vide further thoughts on each perspective and have included specific tactics that could be used. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THREE
  12. 12. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 12 FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THREE S tor y telli n g Storytelling is a compelling and familiar way to share information. It allows for the storyteller’s personality and experience to become part of the story. In this approach, we suggest using the storytelling method to capture and share knowledge. This can also allow the storyteller to shine and share their experience and knowledge in a recognized and respected forum. This approach appeals to those knowledge-holders who are comfortable in the spotlight. Storytelling can take many different forms and we have outlined two as food for thought. Both of these options require specific forums such as interviews, conferences or town hall type meetings to be effective. We realize there are other forms of delivery that can also be explored. Concept 1: Engineering Talks Using TED Talks as a model, engineers would share their knowledge on a specific topic or project while being videotaped in front of an audience. The engineer could give the talk himself or with an interviewer facilitating the discussion. These videos could then be distributed on an ASME site for viewing and reference by members. Audio recordings and text transcripts will allow for further distribution. Creating an Engineering Talks type platform is scalable, flexible and accessible to audiences. We realize there are challenges to this approach, but it’s a proven method of sharing information. Concept 2: Five Things to Know as an Engineer This concept aims to make participation and contribution as easy as possible. By providing engineers with a small number of specific questions, the respondent would provide answers and personal perspectives on an engineering career thus creating a resource rich in experience. This information could live on an ASME microsite and include both text and video interviews. Popular submissions may be flagged for additional contributions by the expert. It might also be turned into a showcase ASME publication.
  13. 13. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 13 L ear n i n g This perspective provides a platform for those contributors who prefer a less public approach to delivering know-how and insights. It also frames the content in a more formal way for those who respond to continued learning such as the certification process provides. This perspective concentrates on collecting information in small and digestible chunks by keeping the content focused. This allows the content to be easily incorporated into the application and easily accessible by the audience meeting our conditions for success. Once collected, the content could then be organized and tagged by users inherently looking for common relationships. This data could be used to dynamically link different contributions based on region, specialty, background, etc., and become a very robust information archive. This perspective would employ existing technologies, most open-source, that can be easily implemented and accessed. Concept 3: ASME Academy The success of the Kahn Academy ( provides a great model for creating a platform for knowledge sharing. Its simple use of technology and digestible lessons provide an environment for everyone to learn on their own at time at their own pace. Working with ASME we would identify critical knowledge topics to create various “curriculums.” An experienced engineer would then teach the lesson / give a lecture in an online forum that would be available at any time to ASME members. The ASME Academy would be a “go to” place for engineers to find information and learn. We would also encourage ASME members to suggest content for the curriculum. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THREE
  14. 14. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 14 G ami n g Game designer Jane McGonigal PhD, believes games can change the world. Her research shows that games consistently provide participants with four ingredients that foster engagement: satisfying work, real hope for success, strong social connections and a chance to become part of something larger. Imagine an experience that delivers these ingredients to knowledge transfer by using the concepts of gaming. That would indeed meet our conditions for success and be a powerful tool for learning and sharing. These experiences can be simple engagements using select components and concepts adapted from gaming. With crafty contexts, existing technology can be maximized to generate a lot from very little. Or, these experiences can follow traditional game experiences, pushing the boundaries of interactive technologies. Of these three perspectives, we feel Gaming may hold the greatest promise. Much research is now being done on effective ways to engage participants, on all levels of interaction, through concepts derived from gaming. While we are presenting a couple of very high tech options, we feel there are untold avenues for exploration around this perspective in both hi and low tech. Concept 4: Five Minute Lectures Time—there’s never enough of it and it’s a great excuse, “I don’t have time.” But who doesn’t have time for a five minute lecture? A guest engineer would give a five minute lecture on a specific topic, problem or engineering issue. This type of format has been successful with Ignite Presentations, which provides a forum for people to present their ideas or “how-to’s” in five minutes—that’s it. ( The five minute lectures would then be released and shared with ASME members. A digital archive would be created to house the lectures for future reference. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THREE
  15. 15. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 15 Concept 5: ASME Watson Challenge The ASME Watson Challenge is a spin-off from the IBM Jeopardy! Challenge that introduced Watson to the general public. By partnering with IBM, ASME could create a challenge designed to push the limits of Watson. Engineering experts try to outshine the smartest computer in the world using their highly-specialized engineering knowledge. This game not only captures vital problem-solving from its participants, but shines a light on the engineering expertise missing from accessible digital archives. The game may also help the further development of AI systems that learn from the collective knowledge of contributors. Concept 6: Inventors and Engineers (SimCity) This approach is based around the concept of reality simulation games like SimCity/The Sims. Participants will help their online community survive, and ultimately thrive, by creating engineering mechanisms and infrastructures that cope with a variety of environmental factors and resource challenges. At a basic level, this can be conceptualized as a text adventure game. Alternatively, this concept can be made into a robust online multiplayer game. This type of collaborative gaming can result in a large amount of “solutions” to be collected while requiring relatively small contributions from each participant. Also, the group oriented nature of the game allows for effective self-policing and community content valuation. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THREE
  16. 16. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 16 Knowledge Transfer Platform We suggest ASME think about creating a knowledge transfer platform. The platform approach would incorporate a number of tools and resources developed to meet the varied criteria of its users and align with the stated conditions for success. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: FOUR This approach presents many advantages: • Allows ASME to start slowly with minimum investment, one tool at a time. A concept such as Engineering Talks can be facilitated by ASME volunteers and is at the lower end of the technology threshold. • Allows for the development of tools and resources to meet the varying needs of general audiences—from those that are passive users to those who are much more engaged. • Allows technological flexibility in tools and resources while catering to the needs of groups and/or individuals. Group Individual High Tech Low Tech input output input output inputoutput inputoutput 1 2 6 4 3 5 1 G A M I N G Inventors and Engineers (SimCity) ASME Watson Challenge L E A R N I N G ASME Academy 5-Minute Lectures S T O R Y T E L L I N G Engineering Talks Five Things to Know as an Engineer2 3 4 6 5
  17. 17. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 17 1. Conduct research with ASME. 2. Begin to develop concepts that both strategically and tactically align with the ASME objectives and the key conditions for success. 3. Develop a recommendations document for purposes of evaluating the initiative. The Knowledge Transfer Intiative presents a very exciting challenge and wonderful opportunity to collaborate with ASME again. Should ASME want to continue to explore the Next Steps presented above with Strategy Studio, we will be happy to provide a detailed proposal to complete the first phase of this project. Of course, if you have any questions or would like to discuss this document further, we’d be happy to set up a time to meet. CONCLUSION Takeaways: • Understand the barriers to effective knowledge sharing • Identify the conditions for success • Address the initiative from multiple perspectives to engage the widest variety of users • Gaming concepts offer the most innovative approaches to knowledge transfer • Knowledge sharing platform provides both strategic and tactical advantages Next Steps
  18. 18. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 18 “ An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. “ Benjamin Franklin
  19. 19. Strategy Studio | ASME | Knowledge Transfer Intiative | 19 - Strategy Studio is... a boutique design firm developing visual communi- cations, interactive experiences and brand strategies for new products and established brands–from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations. Strategy Studio specializes in print and digital solutions for the healthcare, engineering, technology and financial services industries.